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Peninsula teacher, district failed a bullied boy

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Aug. 30, 2012 at 5:45 pm with 3 Comments »
August 30, 2012 4:48 pm

Students haze another student while a teacher is in the room at Kopachuck Middle School In February. (Frame grab from video provided by Peninsula School District)

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

What happened to an eighth-grader in the Peninsula School District Feb. 2 wasn’t – as teacher his teacher described it – “horseplay.” If the mobile phone videos aren’t taking the episode out of context, it’s more like cruel bullying, verging on child abuse.

The boy is dragged around a classroom, then held down under chairs and taunted by at least a dozen other bigger students at Kopachuck Middle School. His socks are stripped off. One is stuffed in his mouth and a pillow placed over his face.

He cries out for the bullies to stop, yet they continue for more than 15 minutes.
Where’s the teacher, John Rosi? At one point, he is mugging for the cameras. According to reporter Sean Robinson, “Rosi pokes the boy in the stomach, pretends to sit on him, points his rear toward the boy’s face and says, ‘I’m feeling kind of gassy.’”

The video, compiled from footage that students shot on their mobile phones, is shocking. It’s reminiscent of “Lord of the Flies” – except there’s a grownup around who should have been enforcing the rules. It reportedly happened during a math and reading class, not in a locker room where boys often horse around while the coach isn’t watching.

The teacher’s punishment? Ten days of unpaid suspension. Rosi agreed not to contest the discipline to his union in exchange for not being terminated from his $74,000-a-year job.

In fairness to him, we don’t know the whole story. It takes some imagination to put this in a charitable light, but Rosi is conceivably a capable teacher who simply had a disastrous lapse of judgment – in front of the cameras, no less.

Let’s look beyond the individual to the school district’s handling of the case.
A few questions:

• Why weren’t the boy’s parents allowed to weigh in on Rosi’s punishment?

• Were the appropriate authorities informed of the incident?

• Did the school district discipline the bullies involved and require them to get counseling?

• Were parents informed about their children’s behavior?

The bullied boy was so distraught, he reportedly told his mother he wanted to die. His parents are now paying for him to attend a private school due to what they see to be a lack of support from the district. Peninsula, like most districts, has an anti-bullying policy. But tough talk about bullying means nothing if it’s not backed up with serious discipline.

While the agreement with Rosi was signed by the former superintendent, Terry Bouck, the current acting superintendent seems comfortable with the way the incident was handled. “We feel like we appropriately dealt with it,” said Chuck Cuzzetto.

A jury might disagree after seeing that video. The parents are seeking a criminal investigation, and the district could face a civil lawsuit as well. The district – not just the teacher – failed a vulnerable child.

Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. cclngthr says:

    One HUGE issue I see is mandatory reporting only covers child abuse; and this is dependent upon the interpretation of what is considered child abuse by the individual and supervisors. It does not cover a bullying issue that must be reported.

    Firing Rosi now is near to impossible since he was suspended. That, according to the law would be double jeopardy; which we learned with the incident regarding Michael Moulton; who won his job back after being fired by the district after he was also suspended.

    Getting rid of tenure altogether is a sensible method; but also changing contractual law that makes a child’s rights a priority over the employees rights, particularly in cases like this.

  2. shadowabby says:

    Thanks to the Tribune for the editorial in today’s paper-August 31, 2012, “Peninsula teacher, district failed
    a bullied boy.” Many readers are enraged at this incident from Feb. 2, and by the way the Peninsula School District handled it. Chuck Cuzzetto’s quote, “We feel like we appropriately dealt with it”, is an insult to the
    bullied boy and to his parents. I too agree that a jury might disagree after seeing the video.

    Many readers totally support the parents in seeking a criminal investigation, and a civil lawsuit against the
    district. The teacher, Mr. Rosi, and the Peninsula School District, should be sued at the very least, for the cost
    of private school for the student. The parents are taxpayers that help fund the school district that so miserably failed their son.

  3. ColtonsDad says:

    The Tacoma News Tribune and its editors truly disgust me. Come Tuesday I am canceling my subscription to this poor excuse of a newspaper. I have offered this paper and its editors since 2006 official school documents and staff testimony which identifies the horrific treatment of my disabled son was subjected to while he attended Puyallup Schools. Each time I have offered this information they have refused to look at it. I have proof where an administrative law judge has ignored blatant evidence that identifies bullying and abuse to protect the district from civil action. It is very obvious to me now that the disabled are not looked at as equals in our society and that having a video is golden. The TNT does not want to be left out of the media frenzy around this bullying incident concerning the Peninsula School District.

    What my son was subjected to lasted from 2005 until we removed him from school in 2009. Every incident of bullying, harassment and abuse was concealed from us, doing this; the district denied us our ability to remove our son from this torture. The Puyallup school district took full advantage of our son’s inability to self-report what was happening to him daily such as being bullied daily by students trying to upset him because they enjoyed the reaction they got out of him to locking him in confined spaces against his will on a daily basis. He is now 21 years old and suffers from extreme Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder his doctor’s state was caused by the treatment he endured while at school. His opportunity at a normal life has been compromised and a full recovery from the bullying and abuse is very doubtful.

    Yeah, I wish I would have had a video of what my son was subjected to, then maybe this paper and the media would expose what this district did to my son, but if I did physically see a video of my son being abused while his teachers just stood by or were participants there would be another headline in the paper, I’m sure that one would have headlined before the abuse article. The school record and testimony of staff was difficult enough and it has taken tremendous restraint. All I can say TNT editors I hope that you never have to experience what our family has been put through.

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